Freedom Summer '64', Part 3


This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer '64'. The events during that time ultimately led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed practices that had been used to keep African-Americans from voting.

Two local men were closely involved with the events that happened during that summer. One of those men is Roscoe Jones. In 1964 he was 17, and according to him, he was supposed to be in the car with the three civil rights workers who were killed that summer in Neshoba County.

"I had a speaking engagement, and Mickey (Michael Schwerner) said no to me going. I was supposed to be in the car," says Jones.

Meridian Pastor, Reverend Doctor Charles Johnson also has some haunting memories from the summer of '64.' He ultimately served as the key witness in what the FBI dubbed as the Mississippi Burning trial; that case involved the Philadelphia murders of three civil rights workers: Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney.

"My home was about to be bombed when the deacons were on the other side of my home, and some people were trying to stick a bomb under my garage, and the deacons got around just in time," says Johnson.

Reflecting on the sacrifices of so many during that time, both Jones and Johnson, along with Dave Dennis, who was also a leader during Freedom Summer '64', and is now head of the Southern Initiative of the Algebra Project, all believe that some of the problems involving young people today are due to a lack of parental and community support.

"The men at Haven Chapel United Methodist Church were my fathers," says Jones. "I knew how to act because wherever they saw me they'd say, 'Roscoe stop!"

"When we worked with the Southern Initiative Algebra Project we were able to find that as you give them (youth) more access to opportunity, their pants come up, and the kids become much more active," says Dennis.

"Get from behind the cloak that, 'Hey, we are Christians and I stay in my corner, you stay in yours," says Johnson. "That's not Christianity. Christianity is when we're together. The Bible says that it's good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity."

A special documentary about Freedom Summer '64' is set to air June 24th on PBS.


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